Two Poems

Michael Hofmann

Ocosingo

The crazy zocalo tips at a loco angle.
It pours three hundred infant girls, dressed
like Christmas tree fairies, down the church’s throat, singing.
A thin trickle of demonstrators chant ‘Mexico!’ uphill.

Whitewashed against white ants, the yew tree trunks
look spindly and phosphorescent, like stalagmites
in the cavern of their shade. The birds won’t sing.
An old man clutches a fistful of drumsticks and shivers.

A month after the election, the posters are still up,
each x-ing out counted as a vote for the winner,
the loser has lost his shirt and scowls like a prizefighter,
and the Party of the Institutionalised Revolution marches on.

Every shoe is a spurred boot, every hat is a Stetson,
every car a Dodge pickup. In hat and boots, every man is seven feet tall,
twelve standing on his Dodge. On Coffinmaker Street,
a bottle goes from hand to hand, from the left hand to the right.

Sunday in Puebla

dies amara valde

I saw the same face
on the bloody Jerusalem Christ in Puebla Cathedral,
on the ‘Martyr of the Revolution’, Aquiles Serdan,
and the law student, Gumaro Amaro Ramirez.

The Christ lay coffined in glass like Lenin.
He had more than the usual five wounds,
he had all the abrasions and contusions consistent with being crucified.
– He must have been the work of a police artist.

In 1910, the police laid siege to Serdan’s house
(now the Original Museum of the Mexican Revolution).
It was a slow night,
he hid under the floorboards for eighteen hours –

there was the neat trapdoor, out of Doctor Faustus or Don Giovanni
and when he came up, crying ‘Don’t shoot!’
one bullet passed through his windpipe,
another unhinged the top of his head.

Gumaro had his life-sized picture
in a colour tabloid,
though his skin was white, and his blood almost black.
It was said the Governor had wanted him dead.

A dreadful indifference took me
in the room full of Mexican tricolors –
the same eagle on the same cactus chewing on the same worm –
and in the room of mildly heretical old banknotes,

the room with pious acrylic paintings of the siege by modern artists,
the room with photographs of the march-past of 1931,
and the one gallery with portraits of the Governors of Puebla,
and the other with those of the Presidents of Mexico.

And later too,
where Christians packed the church
on the site where Cortez had sacrificed Aztecs
on their own altars –

Christians in sweatpants,
Christians rocking up in flexitime,
Christians leaping hotfoot from racing bicycles in long tight black shorts,
Christians carrying 40-watt Puerto Rican briefcases ...

The sun shone all that day as it did most days,
the young Mexicans were visibly fond of one another,
and red spiky chrysanthemum blossoms were starting to appear
on the otherwise bare colorin trees.